Rugby League on the rise in Ireland

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Updated: July 25, 2011

Rugby League Ireland is beginning to reap the benefits of their inaugural Talent Identification Academy that took place in Limerick this May, with confirmation that three players who took part in the three day showcase are heading to Super League clubs for a month long trial period. In addition, a standout member of Rugby League Ireland’s underage set up has also already joined Leeds Rhinos Under 20s on trial.

Aaron McCloskey, who currently plays Rugby Union with Garryowen RFC & Ian Cross, Young Munster RFC, will both commence month long trials this week with Super League giants St Helens while William Stewart, Belfast Harlequins RFC is heading to Castleford Tigers. All three young players took part in the Talent Identification Academy in Limerick in May at which over 20 young players from all four Irish provinces took part in workouts, fitness testing, interviews and games watched by head coaches from top UK league clubs. On the back of their performances at the Academy, all three players were immediately called into the Irish ‘A’ Rugby League panel and made their international debuts in the recent international with Wales.

Another young talent who was due to take part in the Academy but was unable to do so due to exam commitments in May was Joseph Taylor, Barnhall RFC, who is currently spending the summer on trial with Leeds Under 20’s and made his competitive Under 20 debut last week. Joseph was spotted playing for Ireland by ex Irish International Barry McDermott, who is now Head of Youth Development at the Yorkshire Club. Joseph plays his domestic Rugby League with the North Dublin Eagles and has played senior level with Ireland in 2010 in addition to captaining the Irish student team in 2011.

Welcoming the news that three players have been picked up for trial as a result of the Academy, Gordon Matthews, General Manager of Rugby League Ireland, explained. “The idea behind that inaugural Talent Identification Academy was to give players of high ability an opportunity to see if a career in Rugby League was something they would be interested in. This in turn allows Rugby League Ireland as the national body improve the quality of our national team, through identifying young raw talent that may flourish in the professional game in the UK. As we head towards the 2013 World Cup, our hope is that more home grown young talent will make the grade in the professional game in the UK which will help make our national team more competitive against the established nations. It is very satisfying that in its first year, the Academy has successfully identified a number of young talents who are now being given their chance to impress at some of Super League’s biggest clubs. Plans are already underway to host a similar Talent Identification Academy in 2012. “

Rugby League Ireland currently registers 20 clubs throughout the 32 counties and their three provincial league season runs over 14 weeks. Ireland will host Samoa & France later this year in the first Rugby League Internationals to be played in Thomond Park. This comes on the back of the recently announced submission to host games in the Rugby League World Cup 2013 in Thomond Park, in conjunction with Shannon Development and The Shannon Region Conference & Sports Bureau.

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